a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

So what exactly *did* Van Hollen say about Social Security and Medicare?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 17th, 2012

On Wednesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a.k.a. PCCC or “,” reacted sharply to the Wall Street Journal article “Obama Sets Steep Tax Target” by Janet Hook and Carol Lee — not, of course, to Obama’s goal to let tax cuts for the richest to expire, but to signs of what some Democrats might be willing to bargain away for that.  From the Wall Street Journal article:

On Capitol Hill, it isn’t clear how strenuously Democrats will resist cutting entitlements. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said he and others were open to changes as long as they were done in a measured way and were part of deal that included tax increases. Mr. Van Hollen also said changing Social Security and increasing the Medicare eligibility age above 65 should be part of negotiations.

“I’m willing to consider all of these ideas as part of an overall plan,” Mr. Van Hollen said Tuesday at the Journal’s CEO Council.

The PCCC immediately set up a phone campaign urging supporters to call Van Hollen and tell him “Cuts to benefits should be completely off the table.” 

I did, calling Van Hollen’s congressional office — (202) 225-5341.  To my surprise, the staffer I reached told me that Van Hollen had been misquoted and that he definitely does not want to raise Medicare eligibility from 65 to 70 or see cuts to Social Security benefits.

I hadn’t expected a flat denial, and said that was “good to hear.”   But that’s a pretty egregious misquote if that’s what happened — and it occurred to me (after hanging up, as usual) that what Van Hollen might prefer is a different thing than what he’d be willing to vote for.

In fairness, there’s been no hint from Van Hollen before now that he was willing to throw Social Security or Medicare recipients under the bus to avoid sequestration; both in speeches to the Budget Committee in May and in a Politico op-ed in July, the Congressman spoke of wanting to avoid the “meat ax” of sequestration via a “balanced approach” — somewhat vaguely defined as “a combination of spending reductions and cuts to tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful special interests” in the July op-ed, but specifically “preserv[ing] the Medicare guarantee” in his May remarks.

Moreover, Van Hollen is the ranking member of the Budget Committee, so the Democratic alternative 2013 budget has his stamp of approval; it, too, specifically calls for “preserving the Medicare guarantee,” but only speaks (defensively) of preventing Republican plans to privatize Social Security — thus not ruling out other bad ideas like reducing cost of living adjustments, but not proposing them either.

Still, as far as I know, the Wall Street Journal has not issued a correction to its November 14th report — nor has PCCC backed down on asking for more phone calls to Van Hollen.

So please join me in calling Chris Van Hollen’s Washington, DC and Maryland offices some more about this:

  • Washington, DC: (202) 225-5341
  • Rockville, MD: (301) 424-3501
  • Hyattsville, MD: (301) 891-6982

You might say something like,

I understand the Wall Street Journal reported that Congressman Van Hollen was willing to consider changing Social Security and increasing Medicare eligibility age as part of a deal to let Bush tax cuts expire.  Did he really say that?  If not, what did he say?  Cuts to benefits should be completely off the table.

Please let me know what you learned, and/or notify PCCC. Thanks!

One Response to “So what exactly *did* Van Hollen say about Social Security and Medicare?”

  1. » Blog Archive » Van Hollen OK on Medicare — but “willing to consider” Social Security “spending reform” Says:

    […] Personally, I think the current deficit mania is disastrously misguided at a time when the economy is still struggling.  But  I certainly want Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts completely off the table — so I called Van Hollen’s DC office to say so.  A staffer told me he’d been misquoted, leading me to wonder, “So what exactly *did* Van Hollen say about Social Security and Medicare?” […]

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